A conversation with Arch. António Costa Lima


A conversation with Arch. António Costa Lima

'I believe that an architect should assume himself as an aggregating factor and at the same time conciliatory, in a team that is always composed of many people and entities.'

Tell us a little about your journey.

The choice of architecture seemed to me to be the most natural thing. There was something intuitive. Of course, I can find other reasons. Perhaps the (indirect) influence of a grandfather who left an inspiring testimony, my mother’s artistic soul, my father’s sensitivity and taste… Anyway, I feel very good about it. It is already a long professional path that started in the second year of the course when, in 1989, I started a part-time job at the Arch. Pires Marques’ studio, then at Castello-Branco Arquitectos and, later, with Arch. Miguel Saraiva, with whom I’ve made some partnerships. It was always with a pencil in hand, still in the time of Ozalid, Gillette and the smell of ammonia. The year 2000 was already 100% at the L Arquitectos’ studio, created six years before with the architects Francisco Lobo, Fernando Ho and Pedro Araújo. Only in 2012-2013, during the crisis, did I create António Costa Lima Arquitectos (ACL Arq.). Since then, it has been a growing activity.

What do you look for in each project?

A project is a search for a practical solution to a need. However, architecture is much more than that. It can be an instrument of social cohesion and, at the same time, the mirror of a personal or community vision of a society or culture, regardless of the scale of the intervention. I try to be aware of these aspects. On the other hand, a project is also an opportunity for different experiences and growth. Many relationships are established with people and places. The works are born from these relationships. It is, in general, very rewarding. But the “perspiration versus inspiration” that Architect Souto Moura referred to is unavoidable and many hours are spent in the studio. Hours well spent, more or less reflective, but often gray hours: countless drawings are produced that never seem to be ready, we sink more and more into bureaucratic procedures, a lot of time is spent reading legislation that never ceases to be reinvented, etc.. Only with a lot of determination and love for the craft is it possible to see work being born.

What sets you apart?

Perhaps the fact of privileging the maintenance of good personal relationships with customers and all those involved in the processes is a quality, not unique, but particular. I believe that an architect should assume himself as an aggregating factor and at the same time conciliatory, in a team that is always composed of many people and entities.

In what areas have you had the most work? And how has BETAR contributed?

Fortunately I have already worked on projects in various sectors but I can highlight the residential one, especially in the last few years. In this sector, it has also been at different scales and, interestingly, in a lot of new construction, in an era flooded with rehabilitation works. As for BETAR, I have known it for many years and I consider it a company of excellence in its area. At the moment, we have formed with BETAR the design team for the rehabilitation work of a 2000m2 palace in Sintra, intended for the housing of a family. It has been a very rewarding experience, as it addresses a building dating from the first half of the 19th century, architecturally notable, mainly on its exterior and in its landscape surroundings. This project has deserved the creative capacity of the entire team and I am hopeful that it becomes a work of reference.

What are the main challenges and obstacles for national architecture?

The health of the national economy is, for me, the main obstacle. The last major crisis has caused considerably serious damage to many families connected to the construction activity. Unfortunately, I understand that the current pandemic crisis will prolong or exacerbate its consequences in architectural studios. Resilience is the watchword. Recognizing the true role of architecture in society is also a challenge for all of us. The change in mentality can happen, in part, through the testimony given by the architects and, in another part, through education at the community level. The latter has a fundamental relevance.

What would you like to do next?

I would like the ongoing projects to be actually built. Then, I just wish that new and always challenging projects continue to come. A museum or a church, even with some experience in the latter, are for me almost always programs of excellence. As for the studio, I understand that there is still a growth margin in size and in the qualification of the studio. This is motivating, forcing me not to be resigned to the current level. I must say that ACL Arq. is not far from reaching the limit capacity in its staff. I have no interest in being a “mega-company”. On the contrary, I prefer never to abandon the pen and the creative part, in order to better grow as a person and as a professional.

This interview is an integral part of Revista Artes & Letras # 130, May 2021
Partially automatic translation from portuguese: some expressions may differ from their actual meaning.

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